‘TIME JOCKEY’ Artifact Lawsuit

Joe Castillo
June 27, 2013 • 745 views

Gabrielenos versus San Gabriel Historical  …. In the 100th year anniversary of the establishment of the City of San Gabriel, another controversial lawsuit is headed for court. The Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians – Kizh Nation is seeking legal consultation in taking action against San Gabriel Historical Association (SGHA) for refusing to return personal artifacts to their rightful owner. In a recent letter sent to the President of the Association, Mary Cammarano on May 29, 2013, the Gabrielenos requested the artifacts be returned. In the letter, the Gabrieleno’s claim that Chief Ernie Salas temporarily loaned the artifacts to the museum on September 2, 1998 and curator Sarah Duncan signed the agreement that allowed the association to display the artifacts and would return the artifacts any time Chief Salas made the request. San Gabriel Historical has countered that the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGRA) prohibits them from returning the items. However, NAGRA only applies to cultural items a museum has control or possession of and not personal items which are on loan to the museum. An email correspondence from David Tarler of the National NAGRA Program on May 29, 2013 confirmed the information as it applies to NAGRA. In a response on June 17 from Mrs. Cammarrano, the Board of Directors said the Board has taken the following action. First, the board identified that the items are on loan to the museum. Secondly, the artifacts in question will be returned to their rightful owner when requested to do so. However, the Board of Directors has a problem identifying ownership of the artifacts in question and has received conflicting documentation regarding claims of ownership. SGHA is in the process of trying to determine who the rightful owner is and is stating that it will return the items when requested to by the rightful owner. Thirdly, in the coming month an inventory will be conducted at the San Gabriel Historical Museum to determine if the artifacts in question are still in the museum’s possession. Chief Anthony Morales of the Gabrieleno-Tongva Band of Mission Indians has claimed that the artifacts do not belong to an individual, but to the tribal council, who is the rightful owner of the artifacts. SGHA has agreed to return the items personally made by Chief Salas and will work to resolve the issue of ownership as soon as possible. Chief Salas has presented a number of documents which support his claim as rightful owner of the items in question, including a signed receipt from Sarah Duncan, former curator of the San Gabriel Historical Association Museum. However, the SGHA is still not convinced. The Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians – Kizh Nation are frustrated in their attempts to have the artifacts personally owned by the Chief returned and are now in the process of seeking a resolution through the courts. Don’t be surprised if a seven figure lawsuit is filed against the Historical Association, and in this day when Indian rights are gaining momentum in the courts, a judgment against the struggling San Gabriel Historical Association may make it difficult to continue functioning as a community museum.

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